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What Do Astronauts Eat in Space?

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NASA: Food in Space

Older members of your family can probably tell you about the food that astronauts used to eat in space, like freeze-dried foods and Tang. Today's astronauts eat gourmet meals by comparison.

The first astronauts, like John Glenn (the first American to orbit Earth) had to eat out of squeeze tubes. Not very appetizing, was it?

By the time that Neil Armstrong and "Buzz" Aldrin were walking on the Moon (Apollo 11, July 20, 1969), astronauts could have hot water for coffee or tea, as well as preparing hot food. And the food choices were much larger. Along with this mission came the "spoon bowl," which is common in supermarkets these days.

The last flight to the Moon, Apollo 17, was in 1972. The first flight of the space shuttle, Columbia's first flight, was in 1981. During that time, as technology for building space vehicles increased, so did ideas for giving astronauts more and better food to eat while they were in space.

And today, 22 years after Columbia first launched, eating in space is becoming routine, and almost like home. The food is still dehydrated, so it won't take up so much room onboard. Astronauts can "rehydrate" the food and then warm it up in a small kitchen onboard the space shuttle. So they eat soup, casseroles, vegetables, cereal, and many other foods, just like we do here on Earth.

And don't forget the snacks: Astronauts eat nuts, granola bars, tortillas, and other fun food by opening a package, picking out one nut or a piece of granola bar or tortilla, and letting it sail through the zero-gravity into the astronaut's open mouth!

Much of the food astronauts eat these days comes in packages, which they cut open and pour into bowls and on plates. They use real silverware and eat off real trays, which are attached to their laps and which also keep bowls and plates from flying off into the air. (Remember, space has no gravity to keep anything down on the floor or an astronaut's lap!) Other food comes in cans with pull tabs.

NASA likes to tell people that a full meal for a crew of four can be cooked and ready to eat in about a half-hour.

And what about beverages? Well, those are dehydrated as well. Astronauts can drink coffee, tea, sodas, lemonade, and just about every other kind of beverage by mixing powder with water.

Graphics courtesy of NASA



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